L’ Autre Vie ( My other life in France ) #8
By Rae-Helen Fisenden ( photos by Neil Fisenden )
10 Very Good Reasons to explore the Dordogne:
My husband and I have travelled extensively throughout France and it is, without doubt, a stunning country with diverse scenery stretching from the glorious Alps of Chamonix to the seascapes of Arcachon. One is spoilt for choice.
But, with my hand on my heart, I can say that the Dordogne Valley is a spectacular region that is very hard to beat when considering holidaying in France and choosing a destination to explore.
And here's why:
1. Scenery: The scenery is breathtakingly beautiful with its rich valley dominated by the glorious Dordogne River winding its way through the lush and fertile landscape dotted with some of the most picturesque villages in all of France. No less than 16 of the 154 “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France” are located in this area alone, including the first to be classified in 1982:- the pretty " Collonges la Rouge " seen below with it's distinctive red stone architecture and pointed turrets.
2. Accessibility: The region is located in the South West of France and is easy to access. From the U.K. one can fly to the airports at either Bergerac or Brive. From Paris the TGV now has a fast two hour train journey to Bordeaux. Fascinating and popular Bordeaux now boasts the “Cité de Vin” - a fascinating new museum featuring the history of wine making and, with its distinct architectural design, it attracts tourists from all over the world. From Bordeaux the regional trains journey west through the famous wine country of France - including beautiful St. Emilion- to the Dordogne region beyond. Or hire a car and drive. It's simple. The Cité de Vin is pictured below. Its architecture is said to resemble the first swirl of wine as it's poured into a glass.
3. Climate: The climate is excellent in the Dordogne and the region enjoys a pleasant Spring, a warm Summer, lovely Autumnal weather ( with its accompanying colour ) and a fairly mild Winter. Snow is a pretty rare event but very special in Winter when it appears.
4. Historical sights: The Dordogne has a vast history dating back centuries and in particular highlights the 100 years war between the French and the English. Châteaux, particularly Beynac and Castelnaud, stand like sentinels in a formidable way for all to admire. One cannot help but gasp at the first sighting of these magnificent structures standing in their lofty positions and to explore them is simply marvellous.
5. Gardens: If gardens are your passion then you don’t have to go much further than to this region to admire some of the most beautiful gardens in the world. Marqueyssac and D’Eyrignac gardens are just two fine and magnificent examples of painstaking topiary, the former with panoramic views over the valley.
6. Prehistoric History: The Dordogne Valley is the historical centre of Prehistoric Man and many caves with early cave drawings dating back thousands of years are prolific in this region. The new “ Lascaux 4” is an exciting project with an installation recently opened in mid 2017 which replicates the famous Lascaux prehistoric cave drawings found in the 1940’s by teenage French boys. It is a feat of science and engineering and is a must see for prehistoric fans of all ages.
7. Gastronomy: Food is good, actually very good in these parts. The area is rich and fertile and produces crop after crop of maize. This in turn feeds the geese and ducks and produces the region’s famous Foie Gras.( Goose or duck liver pictured below right.) Duck in its many forms is served at restaurants which abound in the region along with seasonal produce including truffles, cheese, walnuts, mushrooms, asparagus etc. Desserts are always delectable.
Good food and wine are not hard to find in this part of the world and at very reasonable prices I might add.
8. Sports: For the more adventurous there are many sporting activities to be found in this area. These include: Rock climbing, abseiling, ballooning, hiking, canoeing, cycling, fly fishing and swimming. Canoeing the Dordogne is a popular pastime and a great way to view the chateaux so its not hard to find very efficient companies providing the necessary equipment and pickup services. Bike paths are plentiful too and suitable for families to navigate easily, as they do not include main roads. Ballooning was invented by the Montgolfier brothers who came from the South east of France and is a fantastic way to get a bird's eye view of the valley.
9. Relaxed pace: This region remains relatively untouched by the rigours of tourism. Of course visitors flock to the Dordogne for Summer vacations but there’s something refreshing about the fact that life in the Perigord remains pretty much the same as it has for hundreds of years. This is one of the reasons why we love it so much. The pace is slower. The air is fresh and clean. The Dordogne River is one of the cleanest in Europe and the food is largely preservative free, as are many of the wines. It is a joy to fit into the French lifestyle and live as the French do. The seasons dictate the rhythm of life.
10. Accommodation: Accommodation is plentiful for holiday makers to this region. Beautiful caravan parks with cabins are popular in the Summer and are nestled along the banks of the Dordogne.
They provide wonderful family entertainment and clean, affordable accomodation in pleasurable locations. For those who would like to experience a French character home (over 300-400 years old) and indulge in an authentic French vacation, please consider one or both of our two beautiful homes in the Dordogne ( one in the lower reaches and one further east in the upper reaches of the river.) These are available for rent and are pictured below. For further detailed information, please visit our website.
The Dordogne awaits you!! Put it on your Bucket List today.